Saturday, November 05, 2011

Week 3, a lesson learned and a minor rant

The food vacation is still going well, appetite still remarkably diminished, down another 2.5 lbs.  However, while my energy levels for everyday stuff like getting out of bed, chores, walking the dog, and so on are fine, at the gym, I am having a harder time improving my lifts.  This might be me pushing too hard - I could be just at the point where I can't up my squats by 5 lbs at a time.  And, too, the workout at the moment consists of 2 sets of 15 reps, which I find very difficult psychologically - I'd rather do 3 sets of 10.  So, I'm going to withhold judgement on that, but frankly it's not terribly surprising that on a steady diet of about 800 calories a day, I have a hard time lifting over 100 lbs 30 times.  The more important thing is that I keep trying to do it so I don't suffer any muscle atrophy, so when the food vacation ends, I'm in good shape to resume a more aggressive lifting program.

The main lesson I learned this week, though, was that I need to trust my body more. TMI ALERT!  TMI ALERT!!!

Ok, you've been warned - there's poop talk ahead.

With a reduced food intake, there's a corresponding reduction in output.  Throughout the second week I was only spending quality time in the bathroom every couple of days, which I expected, but this week I went three or four days with no action.  Now, I didn't feel constipated or bad in any way, but I was alarmed by this so I availed myself of the large bag of homemade prunes in the freezer. (And yes, they are tasty and technically a violation of the rules of the food vacation, but on the upside, they are very filling and I completely forgot to eat dinner afterwards.)  I ate quite a lot of them - about 2 cups' worth.  And then I realized a few things.  First, I hadn't gone previously because I didn't really need to, and there wasn't a whole lot in there.  Second, prunes are incredibly effective and move stuff out that probably isn't quite ready.  Blerg.  They also dehydrate you in a big way - I went through about double my usual water intake and still felt thirsty.  So, I won't be doing that anymore.  Things will move when they're good and ready.  I'm eating plenty of fat and fibre and getting my probiotics so there's no reason to think that there's anything amiss down there.

Now on to the rant.  This story was posted by a Facebook friend this week.  The only problem I have with it is that the headline is extremely misleading.  "Fatty Foods Addictive Like Cocaine" - but the text of the article (and the research behind it) make it clear that it's not just any fatty food that's the problem - in fact, the fat itself is only harmful when combined with refined starches, intensified flavours, sugars (often several kinds) and other industrial additives.  The headline should read "Industrial Foods Addictive" - because none of the foods they list as part of various studies are things that the average person can make on their own - and no home kitchen could possibly duplicate the taste or texture of any of them.  The article hints that food processing companies are employing the same tactics that tobacco companies once did - the assertion that their product is produced in response to customer demand, that it's not intrinsically habit-forming and causes no problems when used in moderation - while knowing damn well that their product IS addictive and, in susceptible individuals, impossible to use in moderation. That's what makes it so nice and profitable.

So many people pull out the "Moderation is the key!" blah in response to others - I would argue the majority of humans - who have varying degrees of susceptibility to enhanced food reward and thus problems moderating food intake.  But that's exactly like saying "smoke in moderation" - sure, some people can.  I know of several people who are casual smokers, who can easily have a cigarette once in a while as a social thing, but who don't smoke otherwise and who never become addicted, or do so only for brief periods and quit easily.  But these people are in the minority, and statistics show that most people who start smoking keep going, and usually increase intake over time.  Industrial foods - foods that are designed to elicit a maximum of reward response in the brain - work exactly the same way.  One reason that obesity is on the rise is because the science of food engineering is progressing and getting better.  Companies are able to make food tastier, more satisfying, and better textured all the the time.  This leads to increased consumption, increased demand, and perfect feedback to tell companies what works for the masses and what doesn't.  And as the article points out, while companies may offer more "healthy" alternatives, it's still the Tostitos and Pepsi bringing in the big bucks to keep the shareholders happy.

As it becomes clearer that industrial foods manufacturers are employing exactly the same brain-hijacking tactics to increase profits that tobacco companies did, my fervent hope is that these companies are dealt with in exactly the same way - taxed to high heaven, with warning labels slapped on all their products ("Warning: this product is habit-forming and use may lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and all kinds of yuck.").  The best thing would be to adopt very broad definitions of "industrial food product" - basically, if it's in a package and has more than one ingredient, it's an industrial food and should be labeled as such.  Yeah, that totally includes bread, crackers, soup - lots of stuff that people count as staples.  IT DOESN'T MATTER.  If it comes in a package, it's part of the problem.  What better way to encourage people to make their own bread and soup?  Also good would be government-sponsored quitting programs for industrial-food addicts using some variation of a sugar-free, traditional-foods kind of diet and cooking classes.  Further awesomeness could include suing the bastards to recoup health care costs. 

Anyway, it was a good article if you ignore the headline.  Fat - or any other macronutrient, for that matter - is not even remotely a problem in its natural state.  Carbs?  All good when they come from veggies, tubers, properly prepared nuts and whole grains if you swing that way.  Protein? Fine.  A KFC Double-Down that's high in all macronutrients? Now that's a heart attack waiting to happen.  Let's stop looking at fat, protein and carbs and start looking at how it's made and what it does to your brain.  Because you could take some good soaked whole buckwheat crepes, a nice fatty chicken thigh, some artisanal cheese, and a couple slices of traditionally cured bacon and make a dish that has the exact same macronutrient composition as a Double-Down and it would not do anything close to the same things in your brain and your body.  In fact, you likely wouldn't even be able to eat a whole serving.  This seems like common sense to me, but you can bet your probably over-large ass that companies like Kraft, Nabisco, Nestle and other purveyors of crap will spend billions over the next few years convincing governments otherwise.

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